When one thinks of Naples, one of the most vibrant, cultural and touristic metropolis of Italy, water scarcity is not the first thing that pops to mind. Perhaps one thinks of its complicated, bureaucratic system, or structural corruption and the ever-problematic persistence of organized crime which is increasingly augmenting throughout most of Italy. However, the southern capital of the Campania region of Italy is facing environmental, technical and economic pressures when it comes to its water management.
Water management is an important topic in Naples, where a 2011 referendum led to a public take over of the system. This switch meant that the main water supplier for the one million residents in the metropolitan area of Naples and its surroundings, Acqua Bene Comune (ABC) became municipality-owned, with the establishment of a monitoring committee, a board of directors comprised of users, people working in the organization, as well as members of environmental organizations. The company manages water distribution, including that of potable water and most recently that of sewage systems.
The ABC faces challenges. Old pipelines and treatment systems suffer from leakages, but also service interruptions in the city and nearby regions. Short-term technical adjustments can address urgent issues, but a systematic solution will be required in order to tackle infrastructural problems that are common in Italy, where aqueducts lose 40% of their water. In Naples, the average citizen uses around 155 liters a day in a system that loses 34% of its water.
The 2017 drought left marks of water scarcity. Climate projections suggest that water management will require substantial improvements in the coming decade, as precipitation decreases. Many economic activities in the region would have been hit by the ongoing climate pressures had these activities not been restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agricultural sector was most profoundly affected in 2017 when the region experienced a shortage in water supply due to decreased precipitation. According to the environmental organization Legambiente, the agricultural sector is inefficient in its water management. Legambiente argues that a potential solution to more efficiently redistribute water and conserve water in the agricultural sector is by shifting towards more efficient systems of micro-irrigation.
Bottom line: Despite its abundance in water, Naples’s water systems face structural problems with old infrastructure, leaks, and falling supply due to decreasing precipitation trends that will only worsen with climate change.
* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂